By Chloe D’Arcy
Sophocles’ Antigone is one of the most well-known Greek tragedies. The play features the aftermath of the incestuous union of Oedipus with his own mother, Jocasta: in Antigone, Creon (Jocasta’s brother) takes over as King of Thebes after Antigone’s brothers Eteocles and Polyneices both die fighting each other for the throne. Creon decides to properly honour Eteocles with burial rites, but leave Polyneices out “for the dogs” in an act of public humiliation. This leads their sister Antigone to disobey Creon’s orders and honour Polyneices, resulting in Creon punishing her. The play primarily concerns decision-making, fate and the individual.
This production under director Minna Davies had several interesting aspects to look out for, such as the presentation of the chorus. Unlike other productions, the chorus were dressed in ripped and ragged clothing and smeared with mud, jumping and running barefoot across the stage. These old men were a key highlight of the play, featuring performances by Gabriel Dentoni, Ellie Armstrong, Lewis Jackson, Jessy Roberts, Mischa Jones and Sophie Parkin. Their sheer physicality and strength of performance were truly impressive, especially when performing the choral odes, due to their perfectly executed proxemics and their admirable synchronisation. Interestingly, the choice to depict the chorus as dirty and occasionally primitive, with a mix of male and female actors, somewhat eliminated the traditional patriarchal and elite dominance usually associated with Creon’s (Edward Foster) advisors. Simultaneously, the chorus brought a different dynamic to the play: the choral voices became closer to the voice of the average man, disturbed by the civil war and its aftermath.
The technical choices were also very effective. The set was minimalist which allowed for several moments that were particularly eye-catching without being overcast by a complicated set. See the opening scene featuring Ismene (Chloe Gamble) and Antigone (Rebecca Storey) arguing over the decision to honour their dead brother: the lighting was used to create hard-lined shadows that stretched across the stage, as if there were a back and forth between both the characters and their spectral counterparts, adding to the importance and gravitas of this seminal scene – whilst maybe also foreshadowing Antigone’s gloomy end.
Finally, it was refreshing to see elements of comedy coming through in this production: Sophie Parkin’s performance as the guard should be particularly commended. Her comedic physicality was received with hearty laughs from the audience. This production of Antigone focused greatly on moral consciousness and making the right choices. TFTV’s modernisation of some costume alongside elements of the text, and the catharsis felt by myself and the audience at the end of the play, bring Sophocles’ work into the present.